March 12, 2014
Notre Dame, Ind. –
For the second week in a row, the Notre Dame hockey team will repeat its opponent for the final two weeks of the regular season during the Hockey East playoffs. Here’s hoping the results remain the same.
On Feb. 21-22, the Irish closed out the home portion of the regular season with a home series against Boston University. Notre Dame won both those games by 2-0 scores. Last weekend (March 8), the Irish closed out the home playoff schedule with a single-game win against the Terriers, taking a 3-2 verdict to advance to the Hockey East Quarterfinals this weekend.
On the weekend of March 1, Notre Dame visited Boston College for the final road game of the 2013-14 season. The Irish took that game by a 2-1 overtime score. This weekend, they will again face off at Boston College in the best-of-three quarterfinal round – the last official road games of the season. The remainder of the schedule should Notre Dame advance will be played at neutral sites.
Jeff Jackson’s squad knows it has its work cut out for them. The Eagles have had two weeks to practice and think about that March 1 game that saw the Irish snap a 19-game (17-0-2) unbeaten streak that knocked BC out of the No. 1 ranking.
Notre Dame visits Chestnut Hill, Mass., and Kelley Rink at Conte Forum for the second time in March for its series against Boston College. The Irish are in the midst of a five-game winning streak since Feb. 15 and a seven-game unbeaten run (6-0-1) since Feb. 8.
Including last season’s run to the final CCHA title, Notre Dame has won five consecutive conference playoff games – in 2012-13, two quarterfinal wins against Bowling Green and then wins against Ohio State and Michigan at Joe Louis Arena and this year, a first round win over Boston University.
“Boston College is going to be a challenge. They’ve had two weeks to think about us,” explains Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson.
“We beat them in their last regular-season home game. It was Senior Night. Winning that game was important for us. All we can worry about is focusing on one game – winning on Friday night. We can’t worry about two-out-of-three or anything like that.”
Could that win have made the Irish a little over confident going into the coming weekend?
“Not against BC,” says Jackson emphatically.
“We won that game but it was by the skin of our teeth. It wasn’t like we beat them handily.”
Boston College has not played since that game on March 1 as the Eagles finished first in Hockey East with a 16-2-2 record in league play and were 25-5-4 overall. They are ranked second in both the USA Today/American Hockey Magazine and USCHO.com polls. BC had a first round bye last weekend while the Irish, ranked 11th in both polls were hosting Boston University.
The Quarterfinal playoff series will open at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, March 14 at BC’s Conte Forum. Game two is set for 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 15 and will be televised by the New England Sports Network (NESN). Game three if necessary will be played at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 16 and will also be televised by NESN. All Hockey East quarterfinal games not televised can be seen on the Hockey East website at hockeyeastonline.tv. There are single game and tournament packages available for purchase on the website.
IRISH VERSUS EAGLES
Notre Dame and Boston College have met 34 times in the all-time series with the Eagles holding an 18-14-2 advantage. In games played at BC, the series is even at 8-8-1. Dating back to the 2003-04 season, Notre Dame is 7-4-0 versus Boston College. The two teams met twice this season – on Jan. 4 at Fenway Park, the Eagles took a 4-3 decision and on March 1 at Conte Forum, the Irish snapped a 19-game Boston College unbeaten streak (17-0-2) with a 2-1 overtime win. Notre Dame has played the Eagles more than any other team in Hockey East (34 games). The two teams have met once in postseason play – April 12, 2008 – in the NCAA Championship game at Denver, Colo. Boston College won that game, 4-1.
IRISH POST SEASON HISTORY
With the win over Boston University on March 8, Notre Dame is now 1-0 in Hockey East playoff action all-time. Prior to joining Hockey East, Notre Dame was a member of the CCHA (23 seasons) where the Irish played in 66 playoff games with a record of 31-35 in those games (19-8 at home, 5-18 on the road and 7-9 at Joe Louis Arena. Under coach Jeff Jackson, the Irish were 18-12 in the CCHA postseason, winning the championship in 2007, 2009 and 2013. Notre Dame spent 10 years in the WCHA (1971-81) and was 5-13-3 in the post season in an era of total-goal series. That gives the Irish a 37-68-3 all-time record in CCHA, WCHA and Hockey East conference playoff action.
In those 23 seasons in the CCHA, the Irish advanced to Joe Louis Arena and the semifinals a total of seven times. In all, the Irish made it to Detroit 10 times with three of those appearances coming when the CCHA had six teams make it to Detroit (Super Six). Notre Dame advanced to the championship game four times (1981-82, 2006-07, 2008-09 and 2012-13, winning the CCHA championship three times (`06-’07, `08-’09 and `12-’13).
A LOOK AT THE EAGLES
When looking at Boston College, the first thing that stands out is the gaudy numbers amassed by the Eagle offensive attack. They enter the series with the Irish leading the nation in goals with 142 in 34 games for an average of 4.18 per game. The next closest team to them in scoring per game is St. Cloud State as the Huskies have 3.68 goals per game. Leading the way for them offensively is the trio of Johnny Gaudreau, Bill Arnold and Kevin Hayes who rank 1-2-4 in Hockey East in scoring. Gaudreau leads the league and the nation with 30 goals and 34 assists for 68 points. Hayes is second with 22 goals and 29 assists for 51 points and Arnold is fourth with 12 goals and 32 assists for his 44 points. While those three have handled the bulk of the scoring, Boston College gets production from other sources as they have six players with 10 or more goals and six players with 24 or more points.
“You aren’t going to hold that line down completely,” says Jackson.
“They all have different talents and bring different things to the table. There are three different players there that are all tremendously talented in different ways. The chemistry of the three is why that line is so dominant. You can’t focus on just one guy. For the most part, 13 (Johnny Gaudreau) gets all the notoriety, but Hayes and Arnold are great players. Arnold is a great player defensively and has great instincts without the puck too. Hayes, for a big kid, has great mitts. He’s got reach and that makes him an effective player in many ways.”
While BC leads the nation in scoring, the Eagles are also tough at the defensive end of the ice. They rank fifth in the nation defensively, giving up 2.09 goals per game, just one spot behind the Irish at 2.00 per game. Freshman goaltender Thatcher Demko has the best goals-against average (1.75) in the nation to go with a 13-2-3 record. Brian Billett is 12-3-1 with a 2.44 goals-against mark.
Having faced the Eagles twice this season, Jackson knows what his team needs to do to have success against the Jerry York-coached team this weekend.
“They have a great ability to get up and down the ice and spread the ice out with their transition game and their speed and skill. That’s what gets you playing back on your heels,” says Jackson.
“We have to play as a tighter group of five, offensively and defensively. We have to make sure that we are supporting the puck up the ice as a unit of five and when the puck does turnover, which happens, we have tight games and not let them spread out so much.”
“It still comes down to not turning over the puck in key areas of the ice. That’s where they expose you. We have to do the same to them – force turnovers in key areas and take advantage of our transition game.”
The Irish have won five straight games since Feb. 15th. In that span, they have outscored the opposition by a 12-3 margin. Goaltender Steven Summerhays is 5-0-0 with a 0.60 goals-against average and a .976 save percentage (121-of-124) with three shutouts. Senior left wing Jeff Costello leads the Irish in scoring over those five games (3g, 2a, 5 pts). Sam Herr (0g, 4a, 4 pts.), Bryan Rust (2g, 1a, 3 pts.) and Kevin Lind (1g, 2a, 3 pts.) are the top scorers in that span. Notre Dame is just 2-for-19 (10.5%) on the power play during the streak and is 16-of-18 (88.9%) on the penalty kill in the streak. The five-game winning streak equals the longest win streak for the Irish this season. Notre Dame opened the 2013-14 season with a five-game winning streak from Oct. 11 to Oct. 25, picking up two wins against Western Michigan, two against Michigan Tech and one versus Minnesota Duluth. The current seven-game unbeaten streak (6-0-1) since Feb. 8 is the longest that the Irish have gone without losing since a nine-game unbeaten streak (7-0-2) from Feb. 17 to March 24 of last season.
ALL-TIME GAMES PLAYED
Defenseman Stephen Johns and center T.J. Tynan have moved into a tie for fifth on the all-time games played list after playing in the March 8 game vs. Boston University. Both have now played 159 games, missing just one in their careers. That came in Dec. of 2011 when they were both members of the U.S. Junior National Team playing at the World Junior Championships in Calgary, Alta. Right wing Bryan Rust will move into the top 10 with two games this weekend. Here is a look at the list:
All-Time Games PlayedName (Seasons) Games Played1. Kevin Deeth (2006-10) 1642. Mark Van Guilder (2004-08) 1633. Kyle Lawson (2006-10) 161 Brock Sheahan (2004-08) 1615. Stephen Johns (2010-) 159 T.J. Tynan (2010-) 159 Ben Ryan (2007-11) 159 Ryan Thang (2006-10) 159 Erik Condra (2005-09) 15910. Dan Carlson (1997-01) 158 -- Bryan Rust (2010-) 156 -- David Gerths (2010-) 150
RYAN FOR THE DEFENSE
Sophomore blue liner Andy Ryan has become one of Notre Dame’s top four defensemen as the 2013-14 season has moved along and will see plenty of key minutes this weekend against Boston College.
The Brighton, Mich., native is no stranger to Irish hockey fans as he follows in the footsteps of his brother, forward Ben Ryan, who played at Notre Dame from 2007-11. A product of the U.S. National Team Development Program, Andy also played a season in the United States Hockey League (USHL), splitting time between Sioux City and Green Bay before joining the Irish as a freshman in 2012-13. With a veteran group in front of him, he only got into six games as a freshman, picking up a pair of assists while being +2 on the year.
With the graduation of Sam Calabrese, a spot opened up on the blue line with Ryan battling incoming freshmen Ben Ostlie and Justin Wade for playing time. He has played in 33 of the team’s 35 games this season, scoring two goals with three assists for five points and is +3 on the year. Both of his goals have been on the power play.
The 6-0, 202-pound defender has put in a lot of work to take over the role he plays this season.
“Last year was tough at times,” says Ryan.
“I didn’t play a lot. I knew that I had to get better. I did a lot of work with the coaches last season and worked hard over the summer. I knew that I had to improve my speed, my lateral movement, not necessarily my straight-ahead speed. That was the biggest thing. It’s still a weakness, but I keep trying to improve.”
“Last year was tough for us to get an evaluation on him because he didn’t play a lot,” says head coach Jeff Jackson.
“He’s got real good instincts and a good stick defensively. He’s very solid in a lot of areas of his game. He had to work on his speed and quickness. He doesn’t have the luxury of making a mistake with the puck and he doesn’t make that many that it becomes obvious.”
“Andy has really helped us a lot with the absence of (Robbie) Russo; so has Eric Johnson,” adds Jackson.
“He is the right-handed guy who gets power-play minutes. He has made that unit with Shayne Taker that much better. Their comfort level has risen as their confidence has grown this season.”
Except for the work that he has put in to develop his all-around defensive skills, Ryan doesn’t believe he has changed much as a player this season.
“I don’t think that I have changed anything in my game since Robbie (Russo) went out,” says Ryan.
“I think the top four spots were pretty much set coming into this year. My goal was to be a top six guy and I was happy contributing. I think I was playing well as a fifth or sixth D. The other three guys (Stephen Johns, Kevin Lind and Shayne Taker) helped me out a lot too. They are pretty easy to play with. Overall, I think I have improved over the season as I get to play more and more minutes. I am looking to have a strong finish here.”
WHAT’S HAPPENING IN HOCKEY EAST
Five Hockey East teams had first round byes – 1. Boston College, 2. UMass-Lowell, 3. Providence, 4. New Hampshire and 5. Northeastern, while the remaining six teams faced off last week in single-game first round playoff games … On Friday night, No. 7 Vermont got a goal from Connor Brickley with 1:07 left in the third period to down No. 10 Massachusetts, 2-1, at Gutterson Field House in Burlington, Vermont … The Catamounts will travel to UMass-Lowell for their quarterfinal series against the River Hawks … Sixth-place Maine got 29 saves from senior goaltender Martin Ouellette as he blanked 11th-place Merrimack, 2-0, in Orono, Me., to send the Black Bears to a quarterfinal series at Providence College …. Eighth-place Notre Dame hosted No. 9 Boston University and got goals from Bryan Rust, Jeff Costello and Peter Schneider to offset goals from Evan Rodrigues and Robbie Baillargeon for a 3-2 Irish win that sends Notre Dame to Boston College this weekend … the four winning teams will advance to the Hockey East Championship on March 21-22 at TD Garden in Boston, Mass. … Hockey East goes into the quarterfinal series with six teams ranked in the top 15 of both national polls. In the USA Today/American Hockey Magazine poll, Boston College is second, UMass-Lowell is eighth, Providence is 10th, Notre Dame is 11th, Northeastern is 14th and Vermont is 15th … in the USCHO.com rankings, BC is second and Lowell is eighth; Providence is ninth, Notre Dame is 11th with Northeastern at 14th and Vermont 15th. A seventh team, Maine is ranked 19th in the USCHO.com poll … No other conference has more than three – Big 10 – Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan and the ECAC with Union, Quinnipiac and Cornell in the Top 15 of each poll … in Hockey East conference games, BC’s Johnny Gaudreau led the league in goals (18) and points (36) in 20 games … UNH’s Kevin Goumas had the lead in assists (20) … Notre Dame’s top scorer was Mario Lucia with eight goals and seven assists for 15 points to tie for 17th …Thatcher Demko of Boston College led the league with a 1.35 goals-against average in 11 games … Steven Summerhays played in all 20 games and was second with a 1.89 goals-against average … Demko was tops in save percentage (.948) while Summerhays was fourth (.931) … PC’s Jon Gillies and UNH’s Casey DeSmith led the conference with 11 wins (Summerhays was fourth with nine) … Summerhays led the league with four shutouts and was part of a fifth … the Irish tied for the team lead in defense with Boston College as each team gave up 40 goals in 20 games for a 2.00 average.